More to learn from Australia than their style of play
Blue pitches, a fast-paced format that is similar to Twenty20 cricket, and even cheerleaders.
Hockey has tried it all in a makeover that aims to capture the imagination of the public like it used to when subcontinent greats made breathtaking runs and displayed great wizardry with the stick.
The game is now ruled by Australia and several other European teams who often slide up and down the rankings in a battle for supremacy.
But despite the success of the new world order and the subsequent innovation that they have brought, the game offers very little in terms of finances and global recognition.
Pakistani and Indian players have been raising a hue and cry over the issue for the past two decades but it has come as a great surprise that the situation in Australia, a powerhouse that other teams yearn to replicate, is pretty similar.
In an interview to TNT Magazine, Australian captain Jamie Dwyer highlighted the lack of finances in both Australia and New Zealand and how most local players ply their trade at the club-level in Germany and Netherlands instead.
“Players need to be financially rewarded, especially in Australia and NZ where we get no money at all,” Dwyer said.
“Hockey needs something to attract people to it – if a young guy coming through was good at football and hockey as well, they’d probably choose football because of the money and it’s on TV,” he added.
For hockey, the money is found in Germany and the Netherlands, where Dwyer has been playing since 2004 for various clubs.
“I signed on for one year there. I absolutely loved it and signed on for five more years. When I went there after the Athens Olympics (where Australia won gold), there was only a handful of guys who’d been there previously. These days, half the squad’s playing there.”
With Australia’s domination and seemingly endless supply of talent and spirit, Dwyer’s comments seem like a revelation. While it is something for the International Hockey Federation (FIH) and the respective boards to ponder over, it is also a little lesson for players in Pakistan.
For the players, Australia’s situation exemplifies that players keep their heads down and keep fighting for national pride despite the financial insecurities. To the federations in the sub-continent, it is a perfect example of how a good infrastructure will nurture great players even if their rewards on offer for them are limited. Needless meddling by federations must be avoided so as to create a tussle-free environment between them and the players.